Rookie Fast: A Q&A with Send It Courier
Photos and interview by Claire McFarlane
You probably didn't think about hiring a bike courier when you had to move your fridge from one end of the city to the other. And if you did, you'd probably expect some kind of Joseph Gordon-Levitt character to be delivering it to you. Send It is one of Toronto's leading courier companies and they will deliver pretty much anything you need by bike. They'll even get your house keys back from your one-night-stand.
dandyhorse sat down with Kiki, a Send It dispatcher who used to be a courier for the company before an injury led her to take a break from her bike. Eric, a fellow rider and dispatcher who was working at the time, also sat in on the conversation.
The following conversation has been edited down from it's original length.
D: Tell me a bit about Send It.
K: Send It is a courier cooperative that started in 2012. They were a bunch of couriers that just kind of wanted to work together for their own reasons. It’s a really awesome company, especially if you’re working for yourself with your friends, it’s a little more family oriented that way, we take care of each other in that respect.
D: You do food as well as other packages?
K: Yup. So we do food and lots of different things. There is a huge range. For instance we deliver wine as part of a monthly subscription program, we do lots of retail stuff and we’ll do anything, really.
E: I’ve literally delivered everything. I’ve delivered a washing machine, a stove, a fridge and wine every month. We get about 250 cases of wine that show up and we deliver throughout the week.
K: Mostly catering too, like during the week we’ll do catering rushes. So we have these big platters that we deliver. I’m sure you’ve seen our big cargo bikes in and around the city; those are awesome tools we use in order to accommodate this kind of business.
E: We get a lot of mail, like kind of classic courier stuff. But we also do a lot of funny one-off stuff like people who need to send one thing, one time of their lives. So I’ve delivered like keys from a one-night stand. I’ve delivered a cell phone to a kid in high school who forgot it at home and he desperately needed it so his mom paid a lot of money for us to bring it to him at school. I brought it to him in his class.
K: I think the weirdest thing I’ve delivered is blood, like, on ice. I guess to a doctor’s office?
D: Was it like: ‘Someone’s dying and they need this blood’ kind of thing?
K: No no, I think it was just blood to be analyzed or something like that but it was pretty weird, I kept thinking ‘I have blood on my back.’
I think Eric has taken cat feces like, to a vet before.
E: Oh yeah. It was for analysis but it was like wrapped up in a bag kind of like a little cigar and it was definitely still kinda warm. It was pretty weird.
Kiki on one of Send It's cargo bikes
D: What makes Send It different from other courier companies?
K: I guess what makes it differently is that we are courier owned and courier operated so we’re all really invested in what we put out and what our customers see. Generally we all really care about what we’re doing. We go above and beyond for our clients to serve them what they’re putting money into. Whether it’s just going up to the door directly and handing them their mail instead of just going to the concierge like a lot of other couriers do, it’s just a little bit more friendly.
D: What do you guys think of the rise of food deliveries by bike?
K: Personally, I think it’s great. They have their own business model that they’re going for. I just think that if you’re going to have food delivered, you should really pay for the service and you should really care about it. It just brings things like buying locally and supporting your local businesses into the equation. Thinking about all that when you’re purchasing something can really make a difference for the smaller people like us.
Casper the dog plays an important role around the office
D: Do you think there’s a kind of bro culture associated with bike couriers?
K: Oh yeah! Especially being a woman in the community, it’s interesting to see the differences in personality. I’ve met some really amazing people that I consider like my family but then I’ve also met some real meanies but, that’s the culture. You really have to put in time and the effort to come across as someone who is worth staying around. A lot of people don’t take this job seriously so they’ll leave and that sucks; having someone that isn’t dedicated to what they’re doing. But you find a lot of dedicated people in this industry. You find a lot of people that want to do it and really believe in it, which is cool.
D: Do you feel that as a woman you have to try harder to stand out and be extra dedicated?
K: Uhhhh, sometimes. There’s this term called ‘rookie fast’ and when I first started I would just go [bike] as fast as I possibly could, just to kind of show off to show people that I could do the work even though you don’t have to go that fast to complete a same-day, you can take like all day.
E: It’s better to be smart than fast.
K: See, I learned that later on.
D: What’s you’re favorite part of the job?
K: I love the whole teamwork aspect, I love coming into work and seeing these dudes hustling as hard as they can and it’s really rewarding in that sense.
D: Your least favorite part?
K: I guess it would be getting that customer that doesn’t want to tip when it’s snowing a lot outside. And you know, that’s fine, you don’t have to tip, it’s just a general thing.
E: It’s more so just people who are unimpressed by the fact that you just trekked across the city. Sometimes people are like: “I need it now.” And you have like 30 minutes to deliver an envelope across the city, then, when you get there they’re like: “Oh how’s the whether out there?” And then you’re like: “It just snowed like eight inches today like, don’t ask me.” Sometimes they’ll then just throw the envelope on a desk even though you just killed yourself to get it there.
The Send It lair, which looks a lot like the clubhouse you wish you would have had growing up
D: What would it mean for you guys if we established a minimum grid of bike lanes in the city?
K: Bike lanes are cool but couriers don’t often utilize them just because we have to go in and out of buildings really quickly so we’re crossing a lot of lanes.
E: The Richmond-Adelaide track is really good because you can get in and out of them really quickly. On other lanes, where there’s a curb, it can be a lot harder to pass slower riders, especially if there’s a car there or there’s snow in the way, it kind of just turns it into a single-lane track.
D: What’s the biggest misconception about bike couriers?
K: That we all smell bad. Some of us smell really nice, OK?
People assume that we all have bad attitudes and that we’re all just a bunch of tattooed freaks that don’t want to conform. Really, we’re all just softies looking for a job.
E: People think that we’re like degenerates or like, the scum of society. Some people just like to ride their bikes all day.
Related on the dandyBLOG: